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Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour Film & the Most Bizarre Movie Theater Experience of My Life
Plus Dumb Money, A Haunting in Venice, and streaming recommendations
On a cloudy and cold Thursday in November of 2022, anxiety was in the air as I sat in a a virtual que to secure tickets to Taylor Swift’s acclaimed Eras Tour. For over six hours the wait continued to drag on. Just when hope was waning, I got to enter. What ensued over the next twenty minutes was nothing short of pure chaos and magic. Over fifty times I selected tickets only to click the checkout button to get a message saying, “Someone is already purchasing these tickets”. It felt like getting tickets just wasn’t meant to be. Until a few tries later, triumph! Tickets secured.
Once the Eras Tour officially kicked off in March on 2023, I spent more time than I care to admit watching videos of the show in anticipation for my show May. It seemed that every day the anticipation grew exponentially.
That all changed the moment I saw how much tickets similar to mine were selling for. I was excited to see the show, but I wasn’t THAT excited. If I wouldn’t even think about buying tickets for that much, wasn’t that a sign that I needed to sell them? I went back and forth with my inner Swiftie, but finally logic prevailed and the tickets were listed for sale. A week before the show, the tickets sold. I was in disbelief that someone was willing to buy tickets for that much. The money was used to go on two trips with my wife, which I would argue gave us hundreds more memories than a three hour concert would have. At the same time, so many fans would have given an arm and a leg to be at the show, yet I had tickets and gave them up. It made many people close to me question my loyalty to Taylor Swift, including myself.
For well over a decade, I have considered myself a Swiftie. “Mine” was the song that started it all for me. Once I heard “Love Story”, the rest was history. Throughout late elementary school and middle school, I didn’t really even listen to music, I just listened to Taylor Swift. Younger me wouldn’t have been able to articulate this, but I was obsessed with her artistry and lyricism. Buying her music videos on Itunes and watching them over and over again on road trips was one of my favorite pastimes. In high school I went to a show on the 1989 tour and in college I went to a show on the Reputation tour. For Christmas I have received almost every Taylor Swift themed gift you can imagine - T shirts, blankets, sweatshirts, guitar picks, etc. When Taylor drops a new album, 10-15 people text/call to ask me if I like it. I could go on and on, but you get it, I love Taylor Swift. Or do I? Selling the tickets for the show kept coming to the front of my mind like a bad nightmare.
When the Eras Tour movie was announced in August, I knew I had to see it opening night in IMAX. It felt like redemption to finally see the show that I was 7 days away from seeing back in May.
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On Friday, October 13th, I walked into the Regal theater with my white Taylor Swift Eras sweatshirt on (not quite prepared for what the experience would entail). Hundreds of times I have walked through the doors of this exact same movie theater, but never before have I seen a sight like I did that day. All 15 concession lanes were open with about 50 people in line for each one. Hundreds of people in the lobby were in costume. I spotted dozens of Eras Tour t-shirts and sweatshirts, six Travis Kelces, two girls dressed up as Taylor Swift from her “22” music video, one “Enchanted” ballgown, and hundreds of friendship bracelets. For a moment I forget I was at the movies. While in line for popcorn, employees started yelling, “WE ARE SOLD OUT OF TAYLOR SWIFT POPCORN BUCKETS”. Two minutes later, “WE ARE SOLD OUT OF TAYLOR SWIFT CUPS”. After the cup announcement, half of the people in line got out of line. The likelihood of me buying a Swift themed popcorn bucket or cup was slim, but I almost resented the fact that I didn’t even have the chance to do so. After getting my non-Taylor Swift popcorn, I headed over to the IMAX theater. When my ticket was being scanned, I was informed that they had already ran out of mini-Eras Tour movie posters. Of course they did. I was being out-fanned so aggressively that I was starting to not feel like a Swiftie at all. Maybe my recurring thought about selling the tickets was right, maybe I wasn’t a fan anymore.
In the actual IMAX theater, you could feel the buzz of anticipation throughout the sold out crowd. During the commercials, a snippet of Swift’s unreleased 1989 (Taylors Version) song “Out of the Woods” played during the background of a trailer and the crowd went bonkers. Young girls started chants of, “I love Taylor” and “We want Taylor”. When the lights went off and a countdown came on screen, you would have thought that Taylor herself was at the front of the auditorium with how loud people were yelling. During the first song, you couldn’t even concentrate on the film because of how obnoxious people were acting. It wasn’t anything to be mad it, more just of a, “Wow, this is crazy and some people REALLY love her”. Then the signing, standing, and dancing began…..
The precedent was set pretty early on that people were going to sing throughout the whole film. Although, singing probably isn’t the right word for it, belt feels more adequate. People started to stand up and dance at certain points. Then, during the second or third song, hundreds of people ran to the front of the theater to form a large group so that they could stand and dance for the remainder of the show. Keep in mind we were on minute 10 of a 2 hour and 40 minute show. All of it made me incredibly uncomfortable. I occasionally took out my phone to start recording because I was shocked how people were acting. No, I am not talking about young kids or teenage girls. I am talking about grown adults. The longer it went on, my discomfort slowly turned to anger. Do people not know how to act in public? I came to hear Taylor sing, not the audience. I came to watch the show, not stare at the back of someone’s head because they are dancing. I was frustrated. My head was pounding because of how loud it was. Only 20 minutes in and I was already contemplating walking out. More importantly, I thought that maybe I had grown out of my Taylor Swift era and it wasn’t for me anymore.
For a little taste of what it was like in the theater, see below:
Once I got used to everything going on around me, I settled in and starting really taking in the film itself. It didn’t take too long for me to be reminded of why she is such a spectacular entertainer. The command that she has over the stage is just breathtaking and undeniable. Even songs I don’t really like (Ready For It, Vigilante Shit, Tolerate It, etc.) are choreographed and performed with such sweet intensity that it’s simply mesmerizing. I haven’t listened to Ready For It probably since I saw the Reputation Tour live, but for those few minutes she was singing the song, it was my favorite song in the world. That same scenario played out over and over again for almost three hours. The intentionality that she puts into everything from the set design to the transition to the lyrics themselves is nothing short of remarkable.
The film itself is very cinematic. Lots of sweeping shots, aerial footage, and hundreds of quick cuts. The decision is made very early to make the show from the perspective of the fans. This is done both by the perspective from the camera and by the deliberate intention to linger on the crowd after each song. There are moments in the film where it captures what feels like 30 seconds to a minute of applause after the song ends. The film as a whole is better for that choice, but it does add to the runtime, which transitions perfectly into my one note on the film. There are a few times where the film drags, particularly during the middle of the Folklore set and the end of the Midnights set. Cutting songs is a difficult choice and Swift already cut six songs from the film, but that should have been taken a step further to bring the runtime down to 2:15-2:20.
Was the crowd a bit obnoxious? Sure, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this a great concert film. If anything, the singing and dancing of the crowd is a testament to the power of Swift and her music. The way it makes people feel and the personal memories and attachment that people have with each of her songs is undeniable. Through the first few songs I was cynical and rolling my eyes at the others in the theater. What I have yet to mention is that by the midpoint of the film, I was belting right along with them. How could you not? Dozens of times throughout the film I got cold chills being reminded back to the moments I had listened to that particular song or what tough time that song had gotten me through. Fandom comes in varying degrees and lots of different shapes and sizes, but the one thing above all that the film reminded me of is that I am a Taylor Swift fan. And I am proud of it. I may not spend thousands of dollars to see her in concert or get up and dance in a movie theater, but I love her music and the way it makes me feel. Above all, that is what matters.
Dumb Money Review
What the film is about - “Dumb Money is the ultimate David vs. Goliath tale, based on the insane true story of everyday people who flipped the script on Wall Street and got rich by turning GameStop (the video game store) into the world's hottest company.”
My thoughts - In the social media era where big events (like the GameStop saga) are documented round the clock from every angle, are movies like this necessary anymore? Sure, the film was entertaining, but it ultimately felt shallow because so much of this was already out there. A large chunk of this story is told through the eyes of TikTok, YouTube, Zoom, and CNBC. While some of that is necessary given the nature of the story, there comes a point where you just want to watch a movie, not a rebroadcast of something you have already seen. Will be interesting to see how the film plays in ten years because the reason something like the Big Short holds up is because of the script and commitment to fully tell the story and explore all of the characters. Not sure something like this will hold up near as well, but will probably serve as a fun time capsule to Covid days.
Rating - 3/5
A Haunting in Venice Review
What the film is about - “Now retired and living in self-imposed exile in the world's most glamorous city, Poirot reluctantly attends a séance at a decaying, haunted palazzo. He soon gets thrust into a sinister world of shadows and secrets when one of the guests is murdered.”
My thoughts - This isn’t only Branagh’s best Agatha Christie adaption (by a mile I might add), but also the most cinematic. From the backdrop of Venice, to the horror elements, to the performances, it all feels so much more fit for the big screen than the CGI mess that was Death on the Nile. It’s ultimately another murder mystery, but this one feels more lived in, purposeful, and less gimmicky than the others. Maybe that’s as simple as the title not being a giveaway for what the movie is about? With the first two, the titles made it very clear what you were waiting on to get the mystery started. So when you are thirty minutes into Death on the Nile and there hasn’t been a death on the Nile yet, you are helpless in waiting for the mystery to start. With A Haunting in Venice, the mystery about the actual mystery itself made this one really fun. It also helps that the actual craft of this one is significantly improved from the first two.
I rolled my eyes when this film was first announced. That said, if any future installments in the Branagh Agatha Christie cinematic universe (BACCU) would feel this authentic and inspired, I may be on board for Branagh to keep cranking these out.
Rating - 3.5/5
It isn’t too often when there are multiple really interesting films released on streaming platforms in a short period of time, but now is one of them, so I wanted to quickly highlight three of them that I enjoyed:
Love at First Sight (Netflix)
What it is about - “On their flight from New York to London, Hadley and Oliver fall in love with each other. However, they lose each other at customs and the possibility of ever meeting each other again seems improbable, but destiny may have a way of changing the odds.”
Quick thoughts - Typical third act problems, but that first act knocked me off my feet!! See, Netflix, it is actually possible to make decent rom-coms! If you like Rom coms and are okay with some of the cheesy and corniness that occasionally comes with them, you must check this out.
Rating - 3/5
Fair Play (Netflix)
What it is about - “An unexpected promotion at a cutthroat hedge fund pushes a newly engaged couple's relationship to the brink.”
Quick review - There is yet to be a 2023 film that has made my skin crawl and heart race quite like Fair Play. From the opening scene to the closing shot, your emotions and feelings towards these characters and their sometimes questionably actions run wild. This may be Chloe Dormant’s directing debut, but you can’t tell from the command over the camera and the world that is built. I first saw Fair Play back at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival and it actually made it onto my Top 10 Films of the First Half of 2023 list.
Rating - 4/5
Kelce (Amazon Prime)
What it is about - “An intimate and emotional documentary that chronicles Philadelphia Eagles team captain and All-Pro center Jason Kelce’s 2022 season, which began with him confronting one of the most challenging decisions any professional athlete will ever face—is now the time to hang it up?”
Quick review - So much of what is done in Kelce is just your standard cookie cutter sports documentary routine and that is ultimately why the first half doesn’t work. The second half however, is focused on the humanity of Jason Kelce. Not only his aching body, but his failures both on the field and in his personal life. Always love when a sports doc focuses on humanizing an athlete rather than painting them as a super human
Rating - 3/5
Until next time, friends!
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